Sunday, December 25, 2011


I was doing it again.  Wishing... Not that wishing is wrong.
I've built my dream houses, castles in the air, specialized rooms and varied landscapes. 
Wishing is like money, easily abused.
I was wishing I was a vintage mommy.  Wishing to be someone I'm not.  There is where the fault lies. 
This mommy is so much like me, and there is the difficulty.  She is creative and nostalgic.  Her beautiful home coming together on the bloggers page, faults hidden mostly from view. 
Why can I not love who I am, who I am supposed to be?  Why must my culture expect me to hate myself, or wish I was something God never intended?  I was the eye looking at the foot wishing itself into redundancy. 
Why do I give in so easily?
I'm not the foot.  I'm not sure what body part I am, but although I'm vintage, and a mommy it's time I saw myself as my creator sees me.  It's time I stopped wishing I was anywhere but here, anyone but me. 
Even if I'm the left eye and she the right, I must still be content to be the left eye. 
So, again, I will learn to hear my father's voice, "you are special because you are different.  You are who I made you and I love who you are."
oh, and you can't be me either...   

Monday, December 5, 2011

A cupful of memories

Because I'm a home schooler, my thoughts are often directed at homeschooling. I get asked a lot about it, and why I feel the need to home school. I've mostly gotten positive feedback, and only once did I get overwhelmingly negative feedback.

Often I'll receive comments from other moms along the lines of "You must be supermom" or "I wish I could home school, but I would never have the patience." I'm quick to deny the supermom comments, and often explain that I don't always have patience with my children.

Since the subject seems to come up a lot, I thought I'd at least try to mention one of the reasons I home school here. This is only one reason, but I thought it would be nice and sentimental.

Picture, if you will, a cup. In my case I love all things tea, so I'll be picturing a beautiful hand painted porcelain teacup with a matching saucer. This cup is being filled each day with memories.

Now, I know that I only have a limited number of years to spend with my children, and I know that during those years there will be plenty of negative things that will try to get into my cup. Like the bitterness that steeps when you leave a teabag too long in hot water, I will have to realize that not every moment spent with my children is going to be pleasant. With each passing year, my cup fills a bit more, and the more time I spend with my children, the more memories we have together.

Finally, one day they will leave my home, and start their own. My son is convinced that he will be a bachelor, and so I imagine he will be coming home to visit a lot more often than my girls. (Not that I actually think he's not going to get married, but to be respectful to his current predisposition, I will entertain his current expectations). Then, as my home is empty I will have all those memories to sip on, and slowly savor during the rest of my life.

Now, if I were to send them off to school every day, I would have at least 6 hours every weekday apart from my children. Then, when they are at home I would have to devote at least two hours every night to homework (more for my slower workers). Since they would be on a traditional schedule, I would have to limit the number of times we could go on vacations to those summer days when lines are long at amusement parks, and the community pool is raucous and crowded. Instead of going to visit extended family when the weather is nice I would be limited to a couple of weeks in the winter, and a week in the springtime. At that rate, my cup wouldn't fill up very quickly and all too soon they would be off to college with my nice china cup only half filled.

Now, granted, most of the bitter memories would be left at school in a classroom with a different teacher each year. Honestly, having never had to deal with it, I can't say for certain how it would be. I know from what I hear of other families, it could go either way. We might drift apart as a family with my children's peers taking precedence over their desire to spend time with their siblings. Or, we might become even closer knit as we cherish the moments spent as a family.

Regardless, I know mathematically that I have more opportunities to make memories with my children if I have their presence during a greater part of the day.

So, for me I want my cup to be full... not just full, but overflowing with memories. I'll gladly endure the bitter moments in order to fill my cup the the brim and then some, and I'll do everything I can to sweeten my cup every chance I get. And I have to say, having been both in private school and home school myself, and having a child go to private school and home school, I would choose home schooling every time.

Go ahead, pour yourself a cup and see if you don't like the results.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Blessings Missed

When I was a kid, I didn't have much. I mean, I had plenty if you were to compare my family to, say, a starving family in Ethiopia living in a single room. At one point, though we were pretty close.

When I was a baby I lived on a bus. Not a nice, cushy, touring bus either. This bus got so run down that the school system didn't want it anymore, so they donated it to a church. Then it got so run down that the church couldn't use it either, so they donated it to my family. Believe it or not, at the time it was a step up.

I could go on, but that's not really the point of this post. Times were hard then. I suppose plenty of people in my situation would have become cynical and depressed. Thanks to my parents, though I was taught to focus on the positive side.

The thing I learned most from being without is that God answers prayers. I suppose some would say, "Why didn't you pray to be rich, then?" An excellent question, and there were definitely times I wondered the same thing. I also wondered why God wouldn't give me a sister when I prayed for one. I suppose the answer is, "God in His wisdom knew what was best for me at the time, and being rich (or having a sister) wasn't it."

Now that I'm an adult I have moved to the other side of the tracks, so to speak. My husband has a good paying job which makes it possible for me to stay home with our children. We are able to live comfortably within our means. We are not in debt (unless you count house payments).

As I was driving in my 5 year old minivan (the cars my parents drove were at least 10 years old, if not older), I was wondering about the blessing of God in my life. I reminisced about the good old days and wished that I could see miraculous answers to prayer again, like I had as a child.

There's a verse in the Gospels that says (pardon my paraphrase), "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get into heaven." (I love references to sewing) The more blessed I am financially, the more obvious it is to see this truth.

You see, there is this facade that comes with earning money instead of having it given to you. It makes you think that you got it on your own. It's easy to believe that your hard work and dedication are what gives you the life you live.

When you know something is impossible, and you pray for it anyway, and God gives it to you miraculously, it's so easy to see the source of your blessing. But, when God gives you an amazing job, and works it out so that you're paid enough to cover all of your needs and then some, it's easy to forget the true source.

As I pondered all this I realized... There are so many things that God is doing for me, things He's given me that I haven't even thought to pray for because He's been doing such a good job taking care of things that I haven't even noticed anything missing. It's like praying for a glass of water while standing under a waterfall.

I know, with the recession and all, that there are a lot of people who are not in a very good position right now. I'm sure to some of them, this post comes off as arrogant and condescending. I'm not trying to rub it in anyone's face. I guess all I'm trying to say is, trust God. He knows what's good for you. He knows what you long for, and He is, even now, ready to pour it out. But you have to be ready to receive it. God is good, and He will not give you anything you can't handle. So, if you're wondering when His blessings are going to come, perhaps it's time to look around and start counting the ones He's already given you. Maybe, while you're busy tallying up the ones you've already received, He'll flood you with the ones you've been praying for.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gas discounts: breakdown

A friend recently emailed me about a great deal that one of my local supermarkets is running right now. If I spend $25 on groceries, then I can buy a $50 gas gift card for only $40.

A few hours later the same friend sent out another email that another local grocery store had an even better deal on gas.

Being the savvy shopper that I am, I already knew about both the deals, but her emails prompted me to look even deeper into the discounts to see if it's really a good deal.

Upon closer inspection I noticed that, for me, the $10 discount on gas cards would be a better deal. Here is the breakdown:

I can get gas at my local warehouse store right now for about 3.28/gallon. If I buy 17 gallons of gas, it will cost me $55.76. Of course, there is usually a pretty long line and I would have to go out of my way whenever I want to get gas. (I don't always remember to top off my tank while I'm there to fill up the rest of my car with massive quantities of paper goods.)

If I use the first store's promotion, I can get a gift card for almost any big-name gas station. The lowest gas price in my normal, routine driving radius is going for $3.34/gal. At this price I can get 17 gallons for about 56.78. With the $10 discount it comes to 46.78. I could probably find a lower price, but this is a station I know I can get a gift card for.

The second store's option accrues cents off/gallon type reward points based on the purchase of certain types of groceries. It is affiliated with a specific gas station. The closest of these stations is currently selling gas for about 3.37/gal. With a 10 cent/gallon discount, I can get 17 gallons for $55.59.

Keep in mind that this deal is only good on the first 20 gallons of gas, so its a good thing I don't drive anything with a larger tank. Otherwise I'd have to stop for gas more often to get the full discount. Also, if I accrue enough reward points for a 40 cent/gal discount, my 17 gallons of gas would cost me $50.49.

Of course, as I started looking into these details I thought about another issue. Would I be paying more than necessary for my groceries just to get gas points? If I spend more money on products because I'm shopping at my grocery store instead of one of the "marts", then I'm not really saving any money.

I know that the first store already charges a lot more for their groceries than I can get elsewhere, so the only way the $10 discount would be worth it is if I can use a bunch of coupons on my purchases and only buy things that are on sale. The second store is only slightly cheaper, but the things that count toward gas rewards are name-brand items that I wouldn't normally buy. When all is said and done, I guess if I want to save the most money I'll have to stay on top of this all the time.

Or, there's the option I haven't mentioned yet. (Aren't I sneaky for keeping this information till the very end). I could always trust God to take care of me, as He always has. I can relax and enjoy life and not worry about saving a few pennies here and there. Of course, I'm not advocating a total waste of my resources. I'm just saying that unless I can get a really amazing deal I'm not going to spend hours of my life worrying about a couple of dollars I might be able to save.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday

Well, it's over.

Our annual day to think about what we are thankful for is past... now it's time for our materialism and greed to take over in a grasping, mad rush to buy up all the wonderful things we think we need.

Unlike a lot of posts, I haven't really rehearsed this one in my mind. I got up this morning and decided to write this, so it probably won't be as poetic as some of my other, well thought out posts.

I opened my email this morning and found about 50 messages from different businesses announcing their black Friday specials. I couldn't help but feel a little dirty. To think that our nation has capitalized on the materialism of Christmas this way. I had to explain what black Friday was to my son a few days ago.

Instead of venting, I'd like to issue a challenge. Before you go into a store today, think of ten things you are thankful for. I'm talking about 10 things for each store you visit. Or, if you're a cyber shopper, make a list of 10 things before you log onto a new store. Before you plunk down your hard earned money, think about a few things...

1) Are you buying this for yourself because you think it will make you happy?

If so, do you remember what you bought yourself last year around this time? Odds are you'll get a quick fix and then, like an addict, you'll want more.

2) Are you buying this as a Christmas gift for someone you are close to?

If you really have a good relationship, there is probably something more personal and meaningful you could get them. My best friend and I decided were were going to exchange gifts that were either second hand, or hand-made this year. Because, if you really love someone, it will mean so much more to receive something with meaning, than just another trinket picked up in a rush.

3) Are you buying this for someone you have on your list who you just want to show some appreciation to?

A lot of us have folks on our Christmas lists who we aren't really close to, but want to give a little something to make them feel appreciated. I have a lot of people like that on my list. My children's teachers and coaches, ladies who have mentored me, the folks in leadership at my church who serve me every week. While I don't hang out with them one-on-one very much, I still like to show them my appreciation each Christmas.

Instead of buying a bunch of made in China junk for a couple of dollars, why not make them something. Last year I made a salt scrub for the ladies in my life. I think it took me about 10 minutes to mix it up. The most expensive part was the oil I used. I've found pretty jars in thrift stores for as little as 50 cents. For the men in my life I made chocolate dipped pretzel rods. My children made them for their uncles. If they can make them, anyone can. If your reason for not making something is that you don't have the time, then you probably shouldn't be standing in long check-out lines on black Friday.

4) This is probably the hardest one to admit, and the most prevalent in our society... Are you buying something to impress someone?

The truth is, if you're trying to impress someone it's not going to work. It never does. If you're trying to prove that you're rich, then you certainly can't admit that you bought it on black Friday at a deep discount. If you're trying to make someone like you, you should know by now that you can't buy love. The best way to impress someone is to be so confident that you are no longer tossed around by someone's opinions. The best way to make someone like you is to show them kindness. The fact of the matter is, people who make you feel inferior or push your affections away are most often struggling with their own self worth.

So, I hope you enjoy your Christmas holidays, but please, please don't get sucked into the vortex of materialistic holiday greed. I love you all too much to let that happen without at least a small attempt at rescue.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Sliding Scale of Maturity

I have a 14 year old now. I'm in my second year of parenting a teenager, and so far I'm enjoying the challenge. I have to admit that I don't always enjoy it, but overall it's been exciting.

Having a teenager provokes more introspect in me, and once again I must blog about parenting as if I'm a pro. Bear with me... In time I may re-read this and think, "Boy was I waaaay off." For now though, I will try to pen what has been going on in my head.

I think we, as parents, think of maturity as a sliding scale. We look at our teenagers and think, "They're so young," or, "They still have so much to learn," or even, "They're going to hurt themselves." The truth is they are young. They still have so much to learn, and they may even hurt themselves in the process. However, we still have to let them become independent.

Think back to your teenage years. You knew everything. If you were even a little bit mature you could listen to your parents, but you still thought that some of what they said wasn't necessary. Throughout your life you learned that your parents were usually right. Overall you were somehow able to figure out this thing called "life." Although you weren't completely unscathed, you somehow flew the coop and even lived long enough to have your own children.

Now you look at your teenager and all you can think about is protecting them from their own immaturity. This is where the sliding scale comes in. The fact is, they are mature in their own right. We have to accept this. We cannot compare their maturity to ours. Of course we are more mature. Of course we have more life experience. But this does not negate their maturity or disqualify them from trying out their wings.

I'm not a youth pastor. I don't have a degree in psychology, but I have been friends with a lot of teenagers. From my position as a friend I have seen their frustration with parents who don't value their opinions. I have seen their rebellion against parents who are trying to micromanage them as if they were still in single digits. I have also seen these "kids" fly the coop and run away from the restrictive bonds that were placed on them as soon as they were of legal age.

Unfortunately the results aren't always good. Some of these "kids" who couldn't stand their parents those last few years of high school left the church and I see them in pain, wandering down a path I wish they wouldn't have chosen. I pray for them and hope that they will eventually come back as the Bible promises. I know their parents were trying to help them, but they were so micro-managing that it drove them apart.

I heard once that Dr Phil recommends that people should wait until they're in their 30's before they even consider getting married. It's as if he's reached an age of maturity where the scale is even more ridiculously off balance. It's more obvious when you hear this kind of comment. It's ridiculous to think that you have to wait until an obstetrician considers you of "advanced maternal age" to even think about having a child. Unless of course Dr. Phil was saying that it's fine to bring a child into the world, but you're just not old enough or mature enough to commit to a long-term relationship until you're in your thirties.

I prefer to lean toward Dave Ramsey's point of view. I've listened to his radio show for a while and often some well meaning parent will get on and ask for advice about helping out their adult child who is struggling with life. Dave asks them how they made it when they were that age. Time and again these parents will say that they were married, having children, and living on their own income. At which point Dave reminds them that these "children" are perfectly capable of doing the same, but that they choose not to because it's easier to act immature and let Mommy and Daddy take care of them.

I guess all I'm saying is that it's time to start trusting your teenager to make decisions. Gradually let go. Even if it means letting them mess up. Even if it means allowing them to get hurt by their own actions. At least it will happen when they have a soft place to fall and not when they're miles away and can't come home.

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Path

I keep seeing this vision of walking down a road. The goal is in front of me and it's simple: glorify God and enjoy Him forever. As I focus on the goal I know that He will take care of everything that is really necessary in my life. As long as I maintain focus I am at peace. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Unfortunately, all along the sides of this same simple path are people yelling at me. Their one goal is to make me turn my head. If I walk off the path that is a bonus. Their names are not those of glaringly obvious sins. They are simple things like nutrition, exercise, fashion, organics, health, popularity, beauty, conservation. On their own, none of the things that are screaming at me are intrinsically evil. In fact, some would call them good. It's simply the fact that they are attempting to make me take my eyes off the goal.

As walk along the path, each of these things is taken care of. I am kept healthy because God shows me when to exercise or rest, or eat the right foods. He shows me how to parent, and how to present myself in a way that is fashionable. As I do these things I become more like Him and His glory shining through me makes those around me want what I have.

The problem is that each of these simple things is a god when it becomes my focus. Each of these things can become it's own separate path. A path that can deceive me with it's logic. Of course it's important to eat right and exercise, but I find as I start to focus on that aspect of life that there is a never-ending rabbit trail to follow. Everyone has an opinion on what it means and how much effort to put into it, until I am dizzy trying to sort through what is true and what is unnecessary. "Do I take vitamins? What vitamins do I take? Are they natural or synthetic? Did they come from environmentally sustainable companies? Do they dissolve in my system? Are they in the right proportions? Do they include the correct amounts of each nutrient?" The list goes on.

And yet it can be so simple... eyes on the prize, and let God take care of the details.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[b]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Never-ending Minnie Mouse Fabric

My family loves Disney!

As Florida residents we get incredible discounts on season passes. We usually buy a season pass every other year. In anticipation of these trips (and because I just really love polka dots) I usually buy a lot of Minnie Mouse polka dot fabric.

Right now it's an off year, but I can't get it out of my system. So I made a top for my two-year-old (who happens to be the size of a four-year-old). I bought this fabric about four years ago and I will use it until I only have tiny scraps left, and then my girls will probably make clothes for their dolls out of it.

Anyway, as I was organizing my closet this morning (an ongoing project) I came a cross a bin of sewing projects I had started a while back. One of the things that caught my attention was this white top... well, the beginnings of a white top. The little sleeves were sewn in, and the top part was all put together. It had been in there for a while because I honestly don't remember what I had planned to do with it. I'm pretty sure it was something for one of my other girls that got put away before I could finish it.

Well, I pulled it out and had the two-year-old try it on to see if it was big enough around. It was a perfect fit. I had the polka-dot fabric easily accessible because of the top I just finished for my best friend's daughter. I just cut a strip of the polka dot and hemmed it. I did a decorative stitch with white thread across the bottom of the polka dot fabric. Then I gathered it to the top piece which was already complete. Then I went through my button bin which is usually stocked with a plethora of white buttons.

Then I started thinking about how to make it really pop. So I cut a strip of the polka-dot fabric to make a rosette, found another fun button for the center and, voila, an embellishment.

The whole think took me about 45 minutes this morning. Having the first part already finished definitely helped me go a bit faster. I think the longest part was sewing the rosette on because I had to sew it on twice on account of I sewed on the wrong side the first time.

While the two-year-old was running around the house enjoying her new top I remembered that I made a big puffy bow for one of my older girls back when I first bought the polka-dot fabric. I found it and asked if she wanted to wear it. I wish you could have seen her eyes light up. I couldn't tear her away from the mirror for a very long time after I put it in.

Here is the front view:

And here is the back:
(The picture at the top was taken after I put the bow in her hair).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Some Sewing Projects

So I was at an Antique store today chatting with the owner. (because, of course I can't just look things over and leave... I HAVE to strike up a conversation). She had these beautiful old ostrich feathers that were dyed a deep red. I could just imagine them on a dress I was thinking about making for my almost three-year-old for Christmas and I started telling her about my sewing.

As we chatted I realized that I have this whole blog and I don't think I've posted any pictures of my sewing on it. I mean, I have a whole photo album on my facebook page dedicated to crafts, but anyone who doesn't have a facebook account can't see my work. (and yes, there are people alive today who don't have facebook accounts and actually do lead reasonably exciting lives.)

So anyway I told her I would post some pictures of some of my recent projects on here. I'll upload a few today, but you'll have to come back later for more detailed posts and better pictures as I'm waiting for my best friend to send me some pictures she took of the dresses. She's a much better photographer than I am.

Here is a picture of a white muslin dress I made in the Regency style. I made it for my friend's daughter.

This is another dress I made for my friend's daughter. The fabric was at Walmart for $1.50/yd. I wanted to buy some, but I have so much fabric right now that I knew it wouldn't get used very soon, so my friend bought it.

Here is a Rapunzel dress I made for my oldest daughter since she's getting too tall for most of the ready-made Disney costumes.

And finally, here is a top I made for my friend's daughter to wear to Disney as soon as her family saves up enough money. I used leftover fabric some dresses I've made for my girls in the past, so it was essentially free.
I have to admit, I make a LOT of clothes for this girl. Not only is she a beautiful model, but my girls seem to always have a ton of clothes in the their closet, so I don't really feel like they need me to make them more. You will be seeing more clothes for them soon, though as I just started on a dress for my seven-year-old and my two year old will be "needing" some fancy dresses for church this winter.

More to come soon.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Real Treat

My mom sent me an email today containing an article about ways to treat yourself that are not food related. I enjoyed the article but it made me think about some of my friends who can't afford to do much by way of rewarding themselves.

When you're on a weight loss program, it's important to celebrate the small milestones along the way. It keeps you motivated to stay on track. But, when your mentor tells you to go get a manicure and you have no money in the bank, it's easy to think, "I guess I'll just have to skip the rewards."

Let's face it. It's really cheap to go buy a bag of Oreos. It takes more time and creativity to think of an alternative. In our microwave generation we like cheap and easy. Of course, if we had a list that we maintained and kept on hand for those times when we need a little incentive, then perhaps the cheap and easy habits would be broken. I'm going to start a list. Feel free to contribute your own suggestions, just be sure they're either free, or comparable to the price of a bag of cookies.

Free things:

Going to the beach (in my area): even if you don't get sand in your shoes and just choose to sit and watch the waves from a bench, it's still a nice treat.

Watching the sunset/sunrise: If you're a night owl, don't force yourself to watch the sunrise, and vice versa... this is a reward, not a lifestyle shift.

A bubble bath: assuming you have bubble bath in your cabinet already

A home pedicure: again, assuming you have the necessary tools on hand

Window shopping at the mall: it isn't free if you buy something

Taking over the TV for the evening to watch a chick-flick: just make sure you aren't stuffing your face while you watch.

Coloring: Yes, I'm talking about getting out the crayons and spending some time coloring like you did as a kid.

Things that cost about as much as a bag of Oreos:

A new cosmetic item: we're talking small here... a new shade of lipstick or eye shadow

A craft tool: some fun dollar fabric, a skein of yarn in a cool color, a rubber stamp. Remember, this doesn't mean that new cri-cut printer you've been wanting.

Some fresh flowers: seriously... you don't have to wait for your hubby to buy them for you all the time

A new book: ok, some of these can get expensive, but if you look in the "last chance" section, or the library bookstore, you can find them pretty cheap. Not to mention, many of the classics are free for e-readers

Here's another thing to think about. I grew up in church. Every time we wanted to celebrate, we had a meal. We would sit and talk for hours and stuff ourselves with food. Why? As I mentioned before, it was cheap. Everyone could contribute to the pot-luck without breaking the bank. It was also easy. Trying to rent a facility to do some rock-climbing (which wasn't even available then), or paying for everyone to go bowling or ice skating was not only costly, but required everyone leaving the church grounds and transferring to a new location. Not much has changed over the years.

That being said, I think as Christians we need to swallow our pride and admit that we need support. What was that verse again? Oh yeah... Hebrews 10:25 - Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Do you think God would have put that in there if He knew we would be able to withstand any temptation that comes our way? We need to admit to each other that we have a hard time eating reasonable portions of food. We need to ask for help, and when asked for help we need to get off our high horse and be willing to help.

Another area of pride that needs to be brought down is our incessant striving for human approval over the food we bring. Sure, grandma's prize winning pie recipe is a hit at the church social, but when Grandma made it she also hung laundry to dry and kneaded her own bread by hand. She burned enough during the week to justify eating that calorie laden dessert now and then. If you're looking around at church and notice that the pews aren't filling up with new people, but rather with the same people taking up more space, maybe you should contribute to the general health of the congregation by coming up with your own special recipe you can hand down to your grandchildren that is full of flavor and half the fat.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A new year

It's been almost four months.... We ended our last school year in April. I think we had a few lessons in May and there was at least one field trip in June, but overall we were done with the boring and mundane parts of school in April.

It is now July, and we are starting up again. So much has changed since we started last year. Last July was our "maiden voyage" of sorts. My best friend and I decided to become radicals. We decided that if we were going to buck the school system we might as well use it to our advantage. Instead of just keeping our kids out of a traditional classroom, we might as well home school on our own time table.

Well, it worked. We loved it. We started in July and accomplished more in the months leading up to November than we had in previous years. We took a break from the tedium the week of Thanksgiving and didn't resume until after Epiphany. When we started back up we really didn't have much to do, and we took our time accomplishing it. Despite our deviation from a typical calendar, all of our children passed their evaluations with flying colors.

And so we begin again. Yesterday we met to discuss which subjects our children would do together. We amassed a pile of textbooks, unit studies, coloring sheets, flip charts, and miscellaneous other thing. We went through them and discussed our plan of attack, and although it is always overwhelming, we agreed that we were excited once again about the months ahead of us.

Today I moved my antique teachers desk back into the playroom, once again declaring it the "school room." I will have my artistic girls working throughout the next few days to de-clutter their desks and reassign them as tables of learning, rather than free-spirited design centers.

My goal is that, by Monday, July 25th we will be ready to start another year of school.

I will have one 8th grader this year (a bit daunting, especially since he is my strong willed, trail-blazer). I will have one 3rd grader (more compliant, but starting to realize that school is becoming less fun and more work). I will have one 2nd grader (still determined to stay on her older sister's academic level), and a two-and-a-half year old (who thinks she's ready for Kindergarten).

We'll see how it goes I guess.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Traveling With Children

We are headed on vacation soon. I wish I could say when or where, but unfortunately there are too many weirdo's on the internet these days and I'd like my house to be intact when we get back.

I was talking with my sister-in-law about the stress of planning vacations. She has several little ones. Although mine are a bit older now (with the exception of Amelia), I understand her stress. You need a vacation, but they cost money, which you have to work to get. It's like a vicious cycle. Of course, throwing kids into the mix (especially little ones) only adds to the stress. Travel is always more difficult with little ones, and airplane travel just isn't fun anymore for anyone especially parents with small children.

Lots of people have written articles about how to travel with small children, so I will only include things we have actually done. To preface this information, keep in mind that we live at the southern end of Florida and our closest family lives at least a 10 hour drive away. We make the trek a minimum of once a year, sometimes twice. We aren't talking about a two hour jaunt.

First, I have noticed that having a dvd player in our van is a lifesaver. I limit my children's daily TV watching for the most part, so being allowed to watch movies all day is a treat for them.

The second biggest thing that helps is planning ahead for a picnic lunch at a park. Play places at a fast food restaurant are okay, but sometimes they are too limiting. Depending on when you go they may be over crowded, and often they have age or height restrictions. Everyone who has been sitting in a car for a while needs the stretch their legs and this includes mom and dad. We have gone a few miles out of the way at times to find a good park. There's something about letting kids run for an hour that quiets them for the remainder of the trip. This will be our first trip with a teenager, and I plan on forcing "Mr. Cool" to run around some, even though he may not personally plan on it.

Following much of the advice I've read I have made activity packs for the kids as well. Or son isn't naturally artistic, so he doesn't like typical activity books you buy in a store. I can usually print coloring pages for the girls, but these just don't hold his attention. In the past I've made a book of puzzles for him to work on. He's old enough now to be entertained by video games, but I still like making him a booklet. I include personalized word searches, mazes and crosswords, find-the-picture puzzles, and (our favorite) a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt includes things to find along the highway, as well as things to find while we're visiting, and even on the way back home. I also include fun facts about the places we are going and the activities we have planned.

For me, the girls have always been much easier to entertain. I've found some really nice durable magnetic paper dolls. I've also found Dover Little Activity books to be a lot of fun. If you plan ahead, you can buy a ton of these on clearance for under a dollar. I usually have a stack of these in my closet for any occasion. On our last trip, my husband found these scratch off books that were a lot of fun. And of course, there's always the invisible ink books.

The final thing we do to keep everyone happy is have everyone take a turn entertaining the youngest. Right now she is two, so watching movies and coloring for 10 hours isn't good enough. If everyone takes an hour to do something with her, play with figurines, or have a finger puppet show, or read a book, or just listen to her talk, she stays entertained much longer. It also teaches everyone to be less self-centered, and during the non-entertained moments I work with her on how to entertain herself.

So that's it... those are my secrets for surviving a long car trip with my children. feel free to share your own experiences.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

This Morning's Dream

After my husband got up to shower, I fell back asleep and had the following dream this morning.......

I was chatting with him upstairs in our house, when suddenly it grew dark. It was morning, and I thought it was odd that it was so dark. I began to hear the whistling of the wind. I looked out a window and was amazed at how many clouds were rolling in. They were moving quickly and I had this sense of foreboding come over me. I knew something was not right.

I got Joel's attention and told him to look out the window. He only briefly glanced out the window and dismissed it as a morning thunderstorm rolling in. In a few seconds I saw a pinkish glow starting to shine between the gray of the clouds. My fear deepened. I prayed a quick thought prayer for safety and protection and seconds later the sky was mostly clear and it was quiet outside.

I was so distracted by the weather that I wasn't really paying attention to what Joel was trying to tell me. He gave up and went to take his shower. While he was in the shower I went downstairs to start my usual morning routine. I was about to get some breakfast when suddenly it was dark again and the sound was no longer just a whistling, but the chugging of a freight train. I felt like my ears were blocked and the sound was starting to get muffled. I also felt like I was being pushed over even though there was no wind entering the house at all.

The sky had turned completely reddish pink with a film of dust coating everything I looked at. Then I saw it. I have giant sliding glass doors downstairs in my house, and I had the perfect view. A gigantic funnel cloud had touched down and was headed toward our house. Richard was downstairs trying to talk to me. The girls were upstairs getting dressed. Joel was in the shower oblivious.

I began to pray. "I plea the blood over my house and my family." I was speaking out loud and Richard stopped to listen. "I command under the authority of the cross that this will not come night my house." Within seconds it was too loud for me to speak evenly and I was shouting. "Help us Father!" "I pray protection over my property, and command every evil thing to flee in the name of Jesus!"

I could hear the windows rattling around us and I knew that only God's power could keep our house standing. Suddenly it grew quiet. The girls came running downstairs shouting, "Look, Mama! Out the window!" They were pointing and yelling. We walked into our living room, a room that is almost surrounded by windows. All we could see was a thick wall of swirling clouds. It was completely silent. I could still hear the wind whistling, but I knew we must be in the eye of the storm and it had stopped square around our house.

I told the girls to come sit on the rug with Richard and I. I told them we needed to pray, because as soon as the storm moved on we would be in danger again. We joined hands in a circle, sitting on the floor and each of the children began to pray. Their word's were simple, as children's prayers usually are. They each took a turn and then it was my turn to pray.

Before I could utter a syllable, it stopped. Just like that. I opened my eyes and the sun was shining and the cloud was gone. It was as if nothing had happened. I couldn't believe it at first. I ran up the stairs and met Joel coming out of the bathroom dressed for work. I tried to tell him in a rush what had happened while he was in the shower.

I only got a few word of explanation out before I heard a scratching sound behind me and looked out the window. There were teenagers stuck all in the branches of a banyan tree outside our house. I quickly opened the window and held out a hand to pull one into the house. The other scrambled for the roof.

I saw another further back trying to hold on, and yelled that I would bring a ladder. I ran to the garage and got one and took it outside. I looked up into the tree and saw that there were about ten to fifteen teens in various parts of this enormous tree. Some were scrambling down easily, while others were in more precarious positions. Some of the ones on the edges were being helped by others with more sure footing.

Before I could begin to help with the ladder I woke up.

......I've never been in a tornado. I don't know the true terror of being in one. I only know what I've been told of them, and my subconscious pieced together the bits of what I've heard to create the dream. I know I was relieved when I actually did wake up, because it all seemed too real.

I'm sure my dream pales in comparison to what has been happening in our nation recently. My prayers go up for those who were affected by these tragedies. I pray for protection and grace and peace and that those who have lost everything would be comforted in knowing that God did not do this TO them, but rather that He is waiting to heal their wounds and show His mighty hand of restoration.

Friday, May 27, 2011

An Exercise

Allie tossed her head back and laughed loudly. Her grandmother would be ashamed at her lack of protocol. "A lady ___, " she could hear her grandmothers voice in her head, even as she continued to laugh. Sometimes you just have to let it out, Grandma.

Her thick brown hair bounced and shook in waves as she tried to regain her composure. Her black designer sunglasses which had been doubling as a headband slipped off her head and tumbled to the floor beneath the over sized table. She didn't even notice. Tears were already forming in her eyes as she gasped for air.

Her usually pale complexion began to turn pink as she realized she was the only one laughing. Still the guffaws came. Stop it! Stop it! Her subconscious warned her to no avail. Her muscles were protesting. Her cheeks hurt, and her abdominals were beginning to cramp. She had to work to stay upright in her chair.

"Excuse me," she managed to gasp out between convulsions. Somehow she was finally able to look around her. Ten serious faces stared her down. A mixture of disdain, disaproval and, disbelief showed on each of them. An eleventh could not meet her eye. This one stared casually at the laptop opened in front of him.

As her eyes came to rest on his studied nonchalance, she burst out again. She had to get out. The meeting was already a train wreck. She slapped her laptop closed and spun in her chair. As she wheeled just far enough from the table to rise, there came a sickening crunch.

Although it was not enough to stop the fit, it distracted her enough for her to leave the room a bit more quietly. The sunglasses were a loss, she didn't dare stop to pick them up now. As soon as the door closed behind her she burst out again.

Boring meeting or no, she would get him back someday.


I'm reading the book "Quitter" by Jon Acuff. So far I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I bought it on Amazon in the Kindle format. I'm not finished with it yet, but I have been inspired to work a little more fervently on my blog.

With that in mind, you might see some odd posts now and then. I'm using my blog as a practice ground for becoming a better writer. I haven't officially said this in the past. Now you're thinking "ooooh. now I get it." Just be forewarned.

Since I'm really interested in becoming a fiction author, some of my posts might be experiments in dialogue, or bits of narrative. These won't have anything to do with a given project, just practicing my craft.

I would appreciate any comments you have about my experiments. I especially appreciate editing notes, or how to trim unnecessary fluff to make a more concise piece. I don't care if you've never been published yourself. I value your opinions. A writer is only successful if she has an audience, and if I can't write things anyone would be willing to read, then perhaps it is an indication that I should look into other ways of spending my time.

Thanks for your patience with me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Saving Money

So I'm on this whole money saving kick. It's fun and challenging.

I posted a few pictures on my facebook page of some of the deals I've gotten.

This week we took the kids out to a local ice cream shop and I was looking for coupons before we left. My son reminded me that I bought gift certificates a while ago and intended to use them as incentives for doing a good job. Well, we had enough of those to get each of the kids an ice cream cone for free. Joel bought a cookie with some ice cream and our total bill came to about $5.50. Not bad if you ask me.

Today I went to a few stores and was able to purchase about 42 items for $80 and change. Some of these items were pretty expensive, normally. For instance, Advil PM and Thermacare wraps. are normally upwards of $6 a piece. I used $6 worth of coupons on 4 items which were on sale for $5 each. I also got $5 in register rewards to be used on any item in the future.

Another fun things I saved money on today was movie tickets. I don't have a problem going to movie theaters, although I'm sure a few of my readers wouldn't approve. Regardless, I purchased a Living Social voucher a couple months ago for movie tickets. Two tickets for $9. I will be taking my son to see Pirates of the Caribbean tonight. The tickets would normally have cost us $14 each. I bought them with my voucher and only had to pay $.50 extra. Now I'll have money leftover for popcorn...

Then again, I bought 2 Wonka bars for $1.50 today. Talk about a cheap mother/son date. If we bring water bottles from home, the total I would have spent (only counting today's purchases) would be $2. I can handle that.

Time to go make dinner with Buy One Get One Free salad, pasta, and sauce. I'll throw in some frozen garlic bread I bought with a coupon, for a dinner that's about a dollar per person.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tomorrow's Trip

Tomorrow morning I am leaving for a Women's Conference. I am so excited about the experience, but for the first time, I am stressed about the flight up there.

I have never had a fear of flying. I am, admittedly, a bit afraid of heights, and would never voluntarily take a plane up into the sky with the intention of jumping out of it. But as far as flying from one place to another, I have no qualms.

I have never been stopped in the airport, I have a clean record. I've never had issues checking in. I have always looked forward to taking an airplane somewhere. The excitement and romance (yes, romance) of walking down the jetway and boarding the plane is something I have always enjoyed.

Even traveling alone is an adventure for me. I like to be surrounded by friends, but I've also enjoyed people watching. I like to make up stories for the strangers I see. I especially like watching children. Not in a creepy, stalker way, of course. I like seeing the excitement in their eyes. I like their curiosity.

Since I have no problem meeting new people, I always enjoy discovering the person I'm seated next to. I usually bring a book, thinking I need something to do, but end up ignoring it in favor of conversation.

I'm very easily entertained. I enjoy looking at everything around me, and I've even been known to read the in-flight instructions... ok, maybe I'm sharing a bit too much.

This trip is different. This is the first time I have flown since the TSA has become the KGB of our country. The porn scans, and the alternative groping have me in a cloud of worry. The thought that I may be selected randomly to be assaulted so that some terrorist supposedly won't be offended has me seething.

Perhaps it's my penchant for historical novels that has me in a tizzy. I have read books about World War 2 and I can't help noticing the similarities between the romanticized accounts I've read and our current times.

I've read about people trying to leave Germany after Hitler came to power. About being strip searched and having baggage dumped and searched. I'd like to think that it's logical to believe those kinds of things didn't happen overnight. People didn't just get up one morning and suddenly they couldn't travel without being assaulted. I believe it was a gradual shifting of authority under the guise of protection. Suddenly the people who were supposed to be protected from monsters became the ones assaulted and imprisoned.

A long time ago, it became illegal to travel via air with a weapon. I understand the concept of banning firearms from airplanes. A stray bullet fired in self defense could pierce a fuel tank and the whole plane could go down. (Of course, I laugh at the odds of this actually occurring.) But the idea that an innocent passenger cannot bring a knife on a plane with which to take down a would be sky-jacker, is ludicrous and only serves to embolden those with nefarious intent.

When the regulations began to change more rapidly, we had to take off our shoes or put toiletries in a separate bag, I didn't really think anything of it. I didn't fly often enough to find it inconvenient. I didn't like the fact that my loved ones could no longer walk me to my gate, or meet me as I came off the plane. The movies had to change a bit then.

It's a bit frustrating to know that if I have a two or three hour stopover in a city where a loved one lives, that it would be nearly impossible to use that time chatting with them over coffee at an airport cafe. It's just not worth the hassle of having to go back through security in time.

Now things have shifted even further. Now we are on complete lock down. Either I give up my constitutional rights and allow the TSA to have their way with me, or I have to give up the convenience of air travel.

As a busy mom with four children, I would not be able to go on this trip at all without the convenience of air travel. It would just be impossible to drive 14 hours there and back. I even thought about taking a train, but that would take even longer with all the stops and finding stations close enough to my destination. So I'm stuck.

I'm very frustrated, but I'm excited to see what God will do for me this weekend. I'm praying for God to make me invisible. I kind of wish that He would just translate me there, as He did with Philip. I'm sure all those innocent folks fleeing Germany wished for translation as well. It goes against my grain to willingly submit to this, but I know I must. Of course, I did read up on all my rights (believe it or not, I actually do have them). I'm stressed out, but ready to go.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Ok, so I spent about 3 hours working on a blog post about my May Day party.

I meticulously added photos and tweaked the layout until everything looked nice.

I then posted the blog and shared a link on Facebook.

I had two people say they liked the post and one even left a comment.

Now that post is GONE!!!

All my effort is GONE!!!!

I am sooooo angry right now.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Character building sometimes costs money

Don't worry, I will post more about May Day, but first:

Tonight I spent a lot more money than I probably could have, but a lot less money than I would have. Let me explain.

We have a long hedge dividing our property line from our three neighbors. Unfortunately, since it's a hedge and not a fence, it must be maintained via trimming. We got a notice from the HOA that we needed to trim our hedges or we would be fined. This is all fine and good. Neither hubby nor I enjoy yard work, and so we had definitely put it off too long.

Hubby decided he was going to pay our lawn maintenance company to trim the hedges and haul away all the clippings. Well, that's what he intended to do, but life got in the way and as the weeks passed, and it got closer to the deadline, he realized that he needed to just get out there and trim them himself. Let me just say I'm so glad I married a man who is willing to do things he doesn't like because he knows it's what is necessary. In this day and age it's hard to find a man who shows that kind of maturity.

I decided to use the hedge trimming as a lesson in character for our children. I've told my children in the past when the hedges were trimmed that I would pay them $5 for each trash bag they filled with clippings. These are not standard trash bags mind you, they're the largest size lawn and leaf bags available, and they must be filled to my specifications. I do not force them to do it. I keep it optional, and I've been pleasantly pleased with the initiative it brings out in them. It's been interesting to see which children are excited about the prospect to earn some extra cash, and which ones take things for granted and would rather not "get their hands dirty."

Tonight my best friend's children were also here. We were watching them while she and her husband went on a date. (It's hard to find a cheap sitter for four kids these days.) To be fair, I put the offer out to everyone. I got an overwhelming positive response. Keep in mind, I've known these kids for the past 8 years. My friend and I are comfortable enough that I knew she would not mind if I put them to work. In fact, I'm pretty sure if I had told them they had to pick up branches without pay, she would have backed me up. I was pleased that all of the kids were willing to work.

It took a couple of hours, and in the end we filled 15 bags. If we had hired the lawn company to do the work it would have cost $100. We didn't really save much by paying the children, but I believe the character they will learn from working for their money is worth every cent I paid them. To top it off, I witnessed such great attitudes and willingness to work together, that I would have paid them more if I'd had it in my budget. Several times the older children willingly helped the younger ones fill their bags, knowing they would not be paid extra for doing so. I can't stop smiling when I think of how great they all did tonight.

Oh, and just to break it down. The three oldest boys filled three bags each. The oldest girl filled one bag, but went on to help the younger two girls fill all of their bags. The two younger girls filled 2 bags each, and the youngest boy filled one bag and started on a second before giving up. The youngest girl is only two and ran around the yard the whole time looking cute. I'm thinking I can squeeze in an extra dollar for the oldest girl since she essentially filled two bags, knowing she would only get paid for one. I am so proud of her willingness to help others.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day (Part 1)

I'm not sure how much I'll be able to chronicle of our first ever May Day party. I'll try to write down as much as I can, but I'm still of the mindset that I should be out there living my life, not just writing about what I would like to do.

Yesterday I spent time with my girls making things for May Day. I have been planning since before Easter. I hinted at it in my last post. This is my attempt at enjoying springtime activities without letting these activities take the place of a true Easter celebration of Jesus.

I used a certificate to buy $50 worth of flowers from Field of Flowers. I bought mini carnations, mini rose sprays, dark purple stock, yellow mums, babies breath, white aster, and pink Gerbera daisies.

Yesterday I showed my girls how to make nosegays out of the many different flowers. They weren't all traditional nosegays, just smaller bunches of flowers. When we were finished, we had them all sitting in this white milk glass bowl I got from my best friend. I love the way they look, all jumbled up and overflowing.

Then, we made paper cones. I found another blog where someone had posted directions on how to make them. I bought a book of scrap booking paper from TJ Maxx for just over $5, and we used the brightly colored sheets to make the cones. I had ribbon leftover from Valentines Day (and many other projects) to use as the hangers for the cones. I also bought a bag of mini chocolate eggs and kisses from Costco, so we can put a few candies in each cone also.

I used the Gerbera Daisies and several other flowers we had leftover to make the centerpiece for our party table tomorrow.

Deborah has been battling a cough, and while she is otherwise healthy and energetic, she couldn't go to church. I ended up staying home with her, and we used the time to dye eggs. She's such an artist, and she's so careful compared to the other kids. I knew she would enjoy it without making a huge mess.

Today I printed out some cards, which we will attach to the cones. I wanted to keep it pretty simple. They simply say:

"Happy May Day
Your neighbors,
The Hagans Family"

Later tonight, after the kids are asleep, I will put "May Baskets" by their beds. I kept them very simple. I didn't want this to turn into a springtime "Christmas." I included just a few candies, a small toy, and a chocolate bunny.

I'll try to write more tomorrow about the party, and what we did.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Easter Plans

My family didn't do a whole lot for easter when I was a child. Of course, we didn't have a lot of money either. We didn't get Easter Baskets or hunt eggs. The only thing I remember doing is (when the budget allowed) getting a new dress. Often it would be handmade by my mom because back then it was cheaper to make it than to buy it new.

I remember wondering why we couldn't go to egg hunts instead of church, or eat chocolate bunnies like many of my friends. The answer was the same each year. It went something like this:

Easter is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We do that every time we go to church. Bunnies and eggs have nothing to do with it, so we aren't going to celebrate Easter that way.

Of course, as a child I wasn't happy with their decision. I wanted parties and candy. I was thankful that I got my dress (most years), and I thought when I had kids I would do things differently.

It's hard as a parent to make decisions that your immature child will not understand. As with many things I haven't done what I said I would do. "When I was a child, I spoke as a child..."

This year is the first year that I've had an issue. My son isn't really interested in parties as much as he is interested in eating the candy usually involved. My first daughter has always been compliant and hasn't shown any desire to change the status quo. Enter Hannah.

Hannah lives life with gusto. As a baby she was either laughing or screaming. There was never an in-between, "okay" kind of emotion with her. This year, as Easter got closer I kept hearing her comment about how excited she was. Of course, along with the comments she usually included information about what, exactly, she was looking forward to. Mind you, none of these things are traditions in our house, nor have we ever discussed doing them this year.

As she's talked about egg hunts and eating candy, I've thought more and more about why I've made the decisions I've made as a parent. This train of thought prompted a discussion with my hubby (because honestly... it wasn't just me who decided not to do all the "usual" easter stuff with the kids).

We've been on the same page about Easter from day one. The way he put it is, "I hate the crass commercialization of the holiday." When I asked his opinion about starting some new traditions this year, he said he wanted to stay away from the whole easter bunny, candy, egg hunt theme,

Still, I felt something was missing. In trying to keep distance from the heathen elements, we never replaced the celebration with more appropriate elements like we have with Christmas. So finally we came up with a plan.

First, I had to find something to replace the bunny candy. I asked God what I could do in place of bunnies that poop jelly beans, or Cadbury Eggs. While I was at Publix Hannah was entranced by a huge seasonal display of treats and I humored her by looking at the different ones she pointed out. Then suddenly my eyes lit upon something different. I found these little boxes of Whitman Chocolates. Each box said something like "He Lives" or "He Is Risen." I slipped them quietly into my shopping basket and plan to give them to the kids tomorrow morning. I also purchased a package of traditional Passover treats from Costco. We'll break open these boxes as dessert tomorrow after dinner.

Second, we had to find something to replace the egg hunt. My hubby went to a Messianic Passover Seder a few years ago, and he suggested taking an element from their traditions. We'll play "Find the Matzo." Of course it's been several years, so we're a little hazy on the details. We will have a pouch with three compartments. There will be a matzo in each one. The one in the middle will be taken out and broken. Then the broken matzo will be hidden somewhere and the kids will go and find it. Of course there is so much symbolism in this act. He is going to talk to the kids about all of that.

The third thing is the traditional Easter meal. The irony is not lost on me that the usual meat served on Easter is ham... the quintessential "unclean" meat. I thought about this one for a while, and I was going to try to do something more kosher. As the day approached, however I thought about how the veil in the temple was torn as Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. So I have decided, rather than just follow the crowd blindly, I am purposely going to prepare a pork roast for our dinner. I want to enjoy our freedom from having to fulfill the law in order to have a relationship with God.

Having said that, however, I've missed dyeing eggs with my children and doing the generally accepted "easter" traditions. Egg hunts are a lot of fun, and I would like my children to experience them. So, in addition to starting these new traditions, I will be celebrating springtime on May Day. In future years I might celebrate it on the first day of spring... But that's a whole different blog post.

1000 Gifts and a Free Box to Boot

(This is a long one, but hopefully worth the read)

This is what I read today in my devotions... it's from the Message Bible.

Matthew 6:22-23"Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!"

I read a book recently and it goes so well with this passage. This book has really changed my life. The title of the book is, "1000 Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are." I didn't know it existed until my friend Jenny posted on her Facebook page that she had ordered it and couldn't wait till it arrived. I have been friends with Jenny since we were in youth group together. I love her style and I really enjoy reading her blog and soaking in the beauty of all the pictures she posts.

On a whim I ordered the digital version of the book for my Kindle. I figured I already liked most of the stuff she talked about and I would probably like this book as well. I was right. As I read the book I cried happy tears and sad tears. I couldn't believe I had finally found in Ann Voskamp a woman whom I could really connect with.

For instance, it's fine for an author who drops her kids off at school for 6 to 8 hours a day to exhort others like her to be more involved in volunteering. I have my children with me 24/7 and can't volunteer unless they are allowed to come with me. Many Christian books heap loads of guilt on homeschool moms for not acting like stay-at-home moms of traditionally schooled kids.

So anyway (sorry about all the rabbit trails, but that's just how my mind works)... I read the book and it was AMAZING!!! Unfortunately as soon as I tried to implement what she suggested my flesh got in the way.

I am a perfectionist, and instead of just writing down the things I'm thankful for, I wanted everything to be in a centralized location, numbered, formatted, etc. I had to have a special book to write things in, and when I didn't feel like going and finding that journal I didn't write things down.

I loved the book so much that I gave away copies to a few of my best friends, my mom, and one of my sister-in-laws. As I discussed the book with each of these ladies, I brought up ways to implement the recording of our 1000 gifts.

My mom suggested that I keep a box handy to put papers in so they will at least all end up in one place, but not necessarily all in one journal. I thought this was a great idea, but as soon as I read her suggestion my impulse was to find the perfect home-decor-worthy box. I also wanted every paper that went in the box to be the same size, weight, and color. Seriously... it's awful... I know.

Well, here is my solution, and I'm so glad my friends gave their suggestions, because I love the result.

Of course, the flowers aren't part of the box... they're just one of the things I'm thankful for. My hubby bought them for me last week when I wasn't feeling well.

Here's a close up of the lid, and a little place on the side that I made for holding pencils. This way they're always handy when I need them.

The other great thing
about the box is that I'm getting my family involved. This was at my friend Jill's suggestion. Of course, she didn't intend it as a suggestion. Rather she was commenting on how she's making her list and mentioned a big silver trophy that they've used in the past to put notes on. They're planning to start writing down their "thanks" and put them in the trophy.

Then, my friend Jodie surprised me with a gift. This little box of papers. She knows me so well that she didn't even tell me what the papers were for. She just handed them to me and I knew.

The box is just a shoe box, covered in some Victorian wrapping paper I already had on hand. even the rectangle on the lid is made from an old file folder and some card stock I had on hand. I didn't pay one penny extra for anything I used.

I told my family about the box last night and they're already putting papers in. One more thing to be thankful for: Cheerful Participation. I had everyone write their name on whatever they put in, so we know who wrote each one.

I hope the box is filled up soon. when it is, we will read through some of the things we've written down to remind us of the goodness of God.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homeschool Appreciation Day

(Disclaimer: images of blood are shown)

So my state governor (Mr. Rick Scott) has declared today (Wednesday, March 23rd) Homeschool Appreciation Day.

Unfortunately I only heard about this last night, thanks to an email from my wonderful pastor's wife.

So I was going to do something impromptu to celebrate. I wanted to take the kids to the park today and maybe go out to lunch with them. I wanted to give them the day off of school (even though we haven't done much school since we got back from our vacation last week). I even wanted to give them a break on some chores.

Well, it didn't work out very well. Last night Deborah had a bloody nose and decided that she should lean over the side of her bed and let it drip on the carpet. Did I mention the carpet is white? I told her last night that if her nose starts bleeding again, I would rather she let it drip on a pillow or blanket or something that I can throw in the wash. I thought she understood me at the time.

Well, Hubby and I had an emergency budget meeting, and decided to pay for carpet cleaning, since I haven't gotten them cleaned since the last time we got vomit on the carpet (only a tiny bit, and it was cleaned up pretty well, but it's still faintly there). Oh, and because my daughter's artistic talent got a little ahead of her common sense, and I found this a couple weeks ago:

Then her nosebleed started up again this morning. The kids were doing pretty well, getting their basic chores done (essentially just putting things away), and I thought we were on track to do all the fun stuff.

I called the carpet cleaner, Heaven's Best run by Chad Cohen. He did my dining room chairs a few months ago, and I really liked the fact that he was honest, and didn't have a bunch of hidden charges. The last company I used to clean the carpets had an advertised price, but when they showed up they told me I had to add a room to get the discount and it ended up being over $100.

Well, this morning's nosebleed threw everything off. It took over an hour for her to get it stopped, and when I went in the room I found this:
Blood spots in a much larger area. (oh, and the toothpaste... I forgot about that... my 2 year old did that right about the time I found the star.)

So anyway, I had to clear their room as much as possible so Chad could reach all the necessary spots. This meant all the bins under the beds had to be moved out. Where could we move these things? Well, the hallway is a great spot.

Oh wait, the hallway is still lined with all the stuff we moved out of the playroom to make it into a school room: closet doors, empty plastic bins, etc. So we had to move all that stuff too. The kids got everything moved to the garage (grrr... I just cleaned out the garage).

By this time, I realized there was no way we were going to a park because I didn't want Deborah being too active and causing her nose to bleed again. We certainly weren't going out to eat, because it was already lunch time, and I had to make sure I'm home for when Chad gets here.

So I ordered pizza instead and finally told the kids that today is Homeschool Appreciation Day. My 13 year old son rolled his eyes and said, "So what's that supposed to mean?" I explained that it's like Mothers Day or St Patricks Day... it's just a fun day to celebrate homeschooling. I told them that I ordered pizza since we can't really do anything else amazing.

I'm disappointed, but glad that we accomplished something.
Now on to laundry... post vacation laundry is bad enough... post camping laundry is ridiculous. But that's another entry.